1. Understand the role of a data analyst
Data analysts gather, organize, and interpret data – such as sales figures, inventories, internet logs, and operating costs – and look for patterns or trends. Based on their findings, data analysts then provide suggestions that can be used to guide strategic business planning and decisions.
Data analyst duties often fall into three key areas:
- Data mining: Gathering necessary information for initial review.
- Data cleaning: Removing errors or discrepancies before looking for trends, patterns, and relationships.
- Data visualization: Organizing the data in a way that is easily viewed and understood in order to help develop business goals and strategies.
There are four types of data analysis: descriptive (looks at the past), diagnostic (looks at the “why”), predictive (looks to the future), and prescriptive (looks to the best course of action). Data analysts may focus on one or all of these.
Some of the requirements needed to become a data analyst are: analytical, critical thinking, and basic math and communication skills. In addition, having experience in computer applications like spreadsheets, databases, data management programs or visualization software are important.
While it is possible to get a data analyst job without a degree, a bachelor’s degree can really help you qualify for entry-level jobs. Not only does an undergraduate degree in data analysis provide a strong foundation in data management and database applications, it can help prepare you for additional networking certifications. This can help expand your job opportunities as well as your earning potential.
2. Start your data analyst education
Some students begin with an undergraduate degree in data analysis, while others who already hold a degree choose to switch careers and pursue a graduate degree or post-graduate certificate in data analytics.